Stalker DVD Review
Directed by Martin Kemp
Written by Martin Kemp and James Kenelm Clark
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 77 minutes, Rated 15
DVD released on 17 October 2011
Anna Brecon as Paula
Jane March as Linda
Billy Murray as Robert Gainer
Colin Salmon as Leo Fox
Jennifer Matter as Sarah
Someone might want to tell director Martin Kemp that he forgot to include a stalker in his film called Stalker. It's a misleading title for a film that, like its director, defies classification. Martin Kemp is, of course, best known as as one half of The Krays, shady nightclub owner Steve in British soap opera Eastenders and as the most pronounced member of the band Spandau Ballet. As a fan of his work (even the old TV adverts where he was selling furniture), I was intrigued to hear that he was writing and directing a psychological thriller. Although when I heard the title, I did have visions of Martin Kemp crouching behind one of his SCS sofas. “An excellent stalking sofa. Only six-nine-five and great for hiding behind.”
A remake of the 1970s video nasty Exposé, it tells the story of troubled novelist Paula Martin. Recovering from a recent breakdown, Paula retreats to the countryside in the hope of starting work on the difficult second book. Events take a sinister turn when PA Linda begins getting a little big for her boots; editing Paula's novel without invite, drowning cats and psychologically bullying the poor author into submission. It's less Stalker than a retooled Single White Female or Misery. But with a nasty case of writer’s block and her childhood demons beginning to re-emerge, it's unclear as to whether loony Linda is the only threat in Paula's life.
Regrettably, Kemp remains behind the camera throughout the film (although it's promised he will pop up in Brit horror comedy Strippers vs Werewolves alongside a certain Robert Englund). Instead, the likes of Colin Salmon and Billy Murray muddle through the melodrama as best they can. The latter seems miscast, particularly given a recent abundance of UK TV adverts in which he sells personal injury claims. There's a scene in which Paula cuts her hand in the basement where I expected Murray to appear and try to sell her a lawyer. The classy and always reliable Salmon is wasted, given very little to do during his short appearances. Meanwhile, the female leads are histrionic and annoying. Anna Brecon's Paula is an incredibly unsympathetic character, impossible to care about despite all of the suffering and misery heaped upon her plate. In this age of recession, it's difficult to sympathise with a spoiled writer whining about how difficult it is to write a book. Her antagonist is equally dull, leaping from understanding friend to complete psychopath within a couple of scenes. The twist is so predictable that I'm not sure it should even be considered a twist. It's immediately obvious how the film is to end, and does so amidst a gory but uninteresting climax.
Despite some occasionally stylish direction reminiscent of De Palma and old Italian schlock, Stalker feels much like a television movie (not unlike Kemp's own serial killer biopic Brides In the Bath) and is budgeted, scripted and acted in such a manner. The original title of Expose was allegedly dumped because it had no relevance to the story – but its new moniker is just as meaningless. There is no stalker. One suspects that it was chosen to sex up a desperately dull story. Exposé was a minor cult classic that few remember. Stalker is even more forgettable than that.
Sadly it's 'true'. Stalker is far from the 'gold' you'd hope from Martin Kemp.
Its low budget is noticeable, but the stylish direction helps to smooth over some of the cracks.
There are two uninteresting deleted scenes, a commentary track and a silly short movie by Kemp called Karma Magnet. Brother Gary plays a suicidal celebrity chef who believes that a streak of good luck comes at the expense of those he cares about. It's like My Name Is Earl crossed with Man On a Ledge, and is much better than the main feature – if only because it has Gary Kemp telling people to fuck off with a Cockney accent.